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Make Believe, or Desperate Duncan?

February 15, 2006

by Jack Lynch

Baltimore’s slogan under Mayor Martin O’Malley has been black banners with white wording simply saying ‘Believe’.  The meaning ascribed by the Mayor is that citizens and government can achieve progress if they simply have community faith and perseverance in working together to solve common problems like crime, and murder rates excessive by any standards of civic pride and common good.

But the obvious cracks in the armor of progress, and the suspension of disbelief, like any good work of fiction, have perhaps been widened by gubernatorial challenger Doug Duncan in recent political swings into the City to declare that O’Malley has cooked the books on crime stats to make them appear to support his efforts and inflate his success.

The question remains…is this really the home run swing of a playoff contender, or the wild swings of a desperate and defeated also-ran?

Without a doubt, Duncan is a governmental heavyweight with wide ranging abilities and solid accomplishments, but his unique geographic and economic position cripple his chances of redefining the playing filed against the populist O’Malley.  Throwing punches is best left to a like minded gang of thugs, with the candidate grinning through the press questions about secondhand comments against your opponent; but by going alone, Duncan risks being pictured as the unrelenting bully of failed campaigning.

While there are undoubtedly errors and inaccuracies in the numbers, for a variety of reasons, some acceptable, some questionable, the real issue for the voting public is more in line with the Believe campaign, we judge the candidate on emotional and personal factors, we either buy the spin, or we simply do not.  O’Malley’s commitment to the City and his charisma suggest that folks in Baltimore will not be shaken from his support both within and beyond the City.

Baltimore is a brown town, a blue collar town, a culturally diverse community in ways difficult to duplicate outside our most vibrant places, like San Francisco and Montreal.  Not that it has realized that level of sophistication and charm and élan, but it has the basic grits of the American melting pot while holding onto distinct identities in its neighborhoods and urban life.

In Baltimore, you find rednecks and homeboys and orthodox Jews, alongside Greek and Polish and Romanian streets and areas, with smatterings of yuppies and metrosexuals and all the urbane rest.

Off in the great undeclared state of Montgomery County, you also find about 189 different language speakers, but edge cities and biotech corridors and more GS-16’s per block than nearly any place in America. Duncan stands for urban advantage and wealth.   So Duncan starts out the race as an outsider to the Baltimorean, and it is easy to imagine Mencken dismissing him as an overgrown frat boy. 

That dosen't play well in Prince Georges County either Doug, which should be your real 'primary' concern.  The Governor's office is a state-wide run, not a Baltimore Johnny deal.  O'Malley has demonstrated his grasp of that, and his openness to partnering with respected leaders such as running mate Brown.  It's a winning combo, and the folks in that Baltimore church basement can probably inform you of that, if you'd listen a bit more closely, and knew them better.

Drop Duncan in a distressed and long dysfunctional community in Baltimore and let's see him make good on crime and drugs.  It's a long way from 'The Deli', hon!